Ronald N. Snow, from Royal Oak Michigan, comes from a long lineage of decoy carvers. His grandfather, Bert Snow, only carved about a dozen decoys and the only remaining example is now in Ronald’s personal collection. His father Walter, whose work is highly collectable, was an avid decoy maker who began in the early 1950’s under the guidance of renown Mid-Western decoy maker Ben Schmidt (1884-1968). Today Ben’s work is in the permanent collection of the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland.
By the age of 11 Ronald was hunting and it was then that his interest in decoys began to grow. At the age of 16, he began carving decoys with his father and his fathers brother Bob. By this time Walt was teaching decoy making at several adult education classes around Royal Oak and after a stint in the Navy Ronald began producing decoys regularly in 1969. Upon his return from the navy his father and he built a classroom and assisted his father with decoy making classes in the basement of their home. Also at this time Ronald’s brother Bob had also began carving. As their reputation continued to grow soon they were teaching classes 4 nights per week. Walt taught two as Ronald and Doug each taught one.
In the early 70’s Ronald began altering patterns and began creating new patterns of his own designs. In 1977 Robert sent one of his decoys, a Ringneck Drake, to the Ward World Championships in Ocean City Maryland. Much to his surprise that decoy was added to the permanent collection of the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art. An accomplishment reserved for only the best examples of decoys from around the world.
Then by the early 80’s things began to change as Ronald explains “By the early 80s, the interest in making working decoys had waned greatly and almost everyone wanted to make decorative’s, which I wasn't qualified to teach. About the same time I was unemployed as was my brother, Doug. So decided to do what we knew best. We went into the decoy business. We made both wood and cork decoys for a couple of big catalog houses for the next couple of years as well as continuing to cut and supply head and body blanks to a large list of customers. This was the core of the business for that period. In 83 both my brother and I found full time regular employment and returned to making decoys for our own use as well as for other hunters or collectors who were eager to buy the decoys we made.” Ronald stopped carving for competition about the same time as the rules became too complicated with self-righting requirements and such. By this time he was producing and selling decoys which kept him busy as well as says was reformation that his the birds that he had designed and made were where he wanted to place his efforts.
Today Ronald continues to carve as well as teach and is proud that his late brother Doug’s son Ken has also taken up the family craft and has become another fine decoy maker. This makes 4 generations of the Snow family that have carried on this tradition. He and Ken hunt together most of the time and can, if needed, set out about 350 handmade, wood decoys but as Ronald say’s “It is hard to get that many in the boats, though.”
For additional information about Ronald, his family or his decoys simply click the below link and send him an email!
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